This interesting surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational name from any of various places in England so called. Ridley in Cheshire, recorded as "Riddeleg" in 1255, and in Northumberland, recorded as "Ryddeley" in 1268, derive from the Olde English pre 7th Century "rydde", cleared, and "leah", wood, clearing; hence, "cleared wood". Ridley in Essex, recorded as "Retleia" in the Domesday Book of 1086, and in Kent, recorded as "Redlege" in the Domesday Book, has as its first element the Olde English "hreod", reed, "reedy wood or clearing". During the Middle Ages, when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Alexander de Rydeleye is listed as a witness in the Assize Court Rolls of Northumberland (1279). The Ridleys of Unthank Hall, Northumberland, are an old-established border family, whose members include Bishop Nicholas Ridley (?1500 - 1555), who was burned at the stake in the reign of Mary 1 because he refused to recant his Protestant beliefs. On January 24th 1543, Thomas Ridley married Alice Day at the Church of St. Mary Le Bow, London, and William Ridley married Alice Strowde on May 27th 1583, at St. Margaret's, Westminster, also in London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Elyas de Redleg, which was dated 1227, in the "Feet of Fines of Kent", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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